The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode 98 · 7 months ago

Changing Lives While Growing Profits By Hiring Disabled Workers


Today’s guest, Tony Lopez, Vice President, Manufacturing & Logistics Services, Pride Industries, provides insight about delivering business excellence with a positive social impact. 

Join us as we discuss:

  • The hiring and employment hurdles that face the disabled population
  • How education bridges the gap between employers and the disabled workforce
  • What the benefits are to hiring disabled workers  

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This is one of the largest disenfranchise populations in the nation and for this conversation, I guess the better way to look at that is that is a large untapped applicant pool. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving midsize manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from be tob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode at the Manufacturing Executive podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a CO founder of the Industrial Marketing Agency guerrilla seventy six. This episode is brought to you by Workstep, a software provider that helps companies higher and retain their frontline workforce across the supply chain. Visit Workstepcom to learn more. What comes to mind when you hear the word disability? Maybe someone in a wheelchair or a person that's hearing impaired. But what if I told you that almost twenty percent of the US population qualifies as having some type of disability, whether that be physical or mental. Today, my guests will explain why the disabled population in our country and beyond often faces an uphill battle for employment and advancement in their career years. He'll talk about what his organization is doing to combat that, and he'll also tell you what you, as a manufacturing leader, can do to change the lives of a large segment of our population that's hungry to work, without making any kind of sacrifice to the growth and success of your business. Let me introduce him. Tony Lopez oversees multiple lines of business at pride industries, including electronics and medical device manufacturing, supply chain logistics and contract packaging and fulfillment. Tony also leads the business development team, which is charged with growing pride industries within existing markets and leading the company's expansion into new market segments. In his role, Tony proactively identifies areas where pride industries can provide additional value to customers, as well as create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Tony Regularly devotes time to serving others in his community. He has served on the Board of the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and as a former board member of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce. He's also president for the Wheatland Union High School Board of trustees and elected official and is a senior fellow with the American Leadership Forum Mountain Valley Chapter. In Two thousand and twenty he was selected to serve on the grants committee for the Plaster Community Foundation. Tony pursued a BS in biological sciences from St Mary's College of California before transferring to California State University Sacramento to pursue a BS degree in business administration. Gives more than twenty five years of experience and operations and is apics CPI am certified. Tony's hobbies include sports, photography, weightlifting and running. Tony, welcome to the show. Hi, Joe, thank you for having me. You beat. It's pleasure to have you here. I love the topic we're going to get into today and and I've excited to get inside your brain here. So why don't we? Let's just get right into it here, Tony. I think that people tend to have their own preconceived notions about what the word disability means, and I'd like to start by having you kind of set the stage for this conversation by giving your definition for context. Yeah, sure so. I think they're there is still a tendency to think of disability to be a visible thing. The truth of the matter is having a disability is a very broad concept used to cover both visible and invisible forms the word. People have disabilities ranging from developmental and intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities and even mental... and learning disorders. And what people don't think about is that individuals can be both born having these disabilities and can develop them over the course of their lifetime. We tend to overlook those who may, as an example, have a traumatic life experience and have become disabled during that course of that that lifetime, but still need to earn a paycheck and support themselves in their family. It may be a little harder to do certain things that they're used to, but there's still a person there that has skills and experience and and wants and needs to be valued and employed. There obviously other subgroups that have varies to employment that also have some form or level of disabilities. That include service disabled veterans, former foster youth and trafficking survivors. All that to say Joe. I think there's a broad definition of the term and that people don't really always realize. Yeah, I think that's great, really helpful for context. I think, you know, that word probably just naturally means different things to different people, but when you consider all the different things that disability can mean, I imagine it's a pretty large percentage of the population actually, or at least much larger than people realize. Absolutely. I think in the US today there's over sixty million total people in the US that have a disability and if you break that down, that's almost one in five people. So most individuals that you talk to have experience in working with, living with or have family members that that have some form of a disability. I've had a quite a few guests on the show Tony who have talked about addressing the labor shortage, which is on everybody's mind over the last few years here and is not going to you know, doesn't appear to getting much better, but talking about it but you know, reaching different groups within our population that really aren't well represented in manufacturing. And you know, I've had people talk about youth, bringing the youth and they emerging workforce into manufacturing women African Americans. I'm curious what you have to say about the disabled population in the US as a potential group that the manufacturing sector can embrace and, frankly, reach out to. Yeah, so that that last statistic I threw out there, the sixty million plus is just total right, but if you kind of break this thing down today there are approximately thirty million of that number that are of working age and of that number close to seventy five percent are unemployed. This is one of the largest disenfranchise populations in the nation and for this conversation, I guess the better way to look at that is that is a large untapped applicant pool. Right. That's something that everybody, to your point, is said they've struggled with trying to find qualified candidates to fill openings. I think there's been a big focus on diversity, inclusion and and also kind of alternative work force strategies. Everybody struggling, everybody's trying to fill their roles and I think one of the things that I've noticed here in kind of my capacity within the industry is the inclusion comment. Right. Not Quite sure how to accomplish that. Right. Companies have desires to do so, but how do you really go about doing it? That's kind of where organizations that employ people with disabilities can can really help. We all want to have opportunities to further our skill sets. We all want opportunities to earn a paycheck. It's just how do you kind of connect those dots from those that have the need and those that have the abilities? I think those are kind of the points at which we really need to hone in on and figure out how to solve. Yeah, well said, Tony. You told me when we were prepping for this conversation that sometimes when in a job interview, when someone states they have a disability, you'll see the face of the interviewer immediately change as if this interview is kind of over. Now, what kind of discrimination do you see happening out there? Yeah, so it's not to your point on common to hear those stories. Individuals are...

...going out there looking to interview foreign organization or perhaps a promotion within organization, and the moment that they a disability is disclosed or the interviewer knows that the person has a bit disability, it changes the tone of the interview right and that's not necessarily inherent discrimination. It's just people don't know what it means to work with a person with the disability. I have a personal experience where I have a younger brother that is hearing impaired and he's had a very, very hard time Joe trying to find competitive employment. This is a person, this young man has two degrees, he's got two bachelor degrees and he's passed over time and time, again and again. It's not out right because you got a disability. It's more of how do you integrate? That's that's challenging for us. We're not quite sure how to go about doing that. Another close to home example is an individual that that shared a story with me that he was trying to get promoted. He was working in a a production work cell and he had tried several different times to get promoted and they were to turn down every time. He had an intellectual disability, and the response to him is, we don't know if you could take on additional responsibilities, and that really hit home. He's like, well then I'm really limited in my my progression here this organization. Now fast forward a couple years. I do know that this gentleman, through partnership with another employer, was given an opportunity and he learned to hone his skills, he was given some additional trainings and coaching and now he's actually overseeing a production cell in kidding for a large cyber security company. So there are stories like that and really, whether you're disabled or not, we all really desire to be valued and respected for experiences and our contributions to the workforce. Well, you said something that kind of stood out to me right at the beginning of that segment there, Tony, and that's that it's not necessarily that, you know people who are hiring or companies that are hiring our outright trying to discriminate against or say I don't want someone to the disability working for me, but instead sort of lack of knowledge about well, what does that really mean for my company? How might I have to modify my business processes? Like, what am I getting into? I'm just not sure. So I'll probably just take the easier route. I mean, is that fair to say? Yeah, that's that's truly it. I think organizations it's not due to not wanting to integrates. To your point, they're not quite sure how to make them successful, ie their company successful. So yes, it's a lack of education and training. So on that front, and I realize you've essentially established a disability can obviously mean a lot of things. So this might be a you know, it's a question that is kind of broad to answer, but what kind of modifications to the way of business operates or accommodations do you find that manufactures need to make, or maybe even a misperception of what they need to make? Just kind of curious to hear what you see on that front when hiring someone with a disability. Yeah, it's it's not much different when you introduce a person of the disability into a production environment, manufacturing environment, than somebody that does not have a disability. The Training, the coaching, the learning curve might be a little bit longer. The way this typically works is an individual will look think about it almost reverse engineering a process. You break down all the different steps associated to that job expectation and then you start at the basic, fundamental elements that person learns and then, over a progression of time, will start enhancing their skills to get the full scope of their particular job tasks. So in some cases there are some minor modifications that need to happen within the production cell organizations can educate companies on how to make those changes and still have the same productivity and output. There are also several accommodations that we can do from a fixturing perspective, so whether that be enhancement of a test bed for a QA inspector or maybe a simple production fixture for those that might have some dexterity problems, and those...

...accommodations show typically range no more than five or six hundred dollars per person to make them successful. Let's take a quick break for a word from our sponsor. Hiring and retaining frontline supply chain workers continues to be a major struggle in today's market. WORKSTEP is a leading software provider that is partnered with manufacturing companies to help them better understand the true reasons behind their workforce turnover and take actions to improve it. WORKSTEP has successfully helped many manufacturing companies reduce their front line worker turnover by up to thirty six percent. Visit Workstepcom to learn how you could do the same and protect your bottom line. So, Tony, tell me a little bit about you know, what are some of the jobs that you see, the types of jobs that you see people with maybe physical or mental disabilities taking on successfully. It really depends on the individual. Everything is pretty person centered around how we go about introducing the personal disability into the job environment. We have people that are frontline, that are part of a surface mount technology line that are loading up feeders, pushing them through the the factory. We've got assembler positions, we've got QA positions, we also have management position. So again it goes back to that common about how broadbrush the term disability really is and how do just depending on where they come what skills they have. It's IT'S A fit, it's management. I've seen people that are overseen a water treatment plant, overseeing a complete operation that have disabilities. People that have PhD's just again somewhere along with the career have established a disability. So it really depends on the individual and how you place them into a particular work environment. And if I could add really quick, I think part of that being uneducated comment. It also is that first impression people really see perceived limitations when they're not educated, versus what potentially they can accomplish. It's a great add tony. Are there any examples of or success stories among manufacturing leaders who have done really exactly what you're advocating for today and successfully brought people with disabilities into the organization that you'd like to touch on. Absolutely and there there are number of examples I could give you, but see one of them is we we have a longstanding partnership with a medical technology company where we help manufacture class two medical devices. These devices are used by every major sports team in America. This organization actually employs in their production cell about thirty percent of that population in that cell have some form of a disability. These individuals are part of meeting the rigorous quality and regulatory requirements of Manufacturing Medical Devices and meeting the end cut stomers required delivery days. Individuals in that prediction particular cell have both developmental disabilities and and physical disabilities. That's it's a great example of one. I can think of. Another is an organization that manufactures, still in the medical device space, seepath device, and most people aware of sleep apnea, of why people use medical devices of that nature, but in Third World countries the number one reason the child mortality is because of respiratory infection. Because these devices are cost prohibitive. This organization employed people the same way we reverse engineered the production cell. They were able to successfully reach out to an organization that was employing people with disabilities and are manufacturing these devices today and they cater specifically to Third World countries and emerging market spaces. So those are readily available in examples. There's another one where we have seen individuals with a site impairments that are responsible for kidding and for assembly of products. They've used brail to place...

...on bin boxes so they know what products they're pulling out and their are rate is is really low. So there are examples all over, whether it be in the manufacturing space, commercial facility space. It really spans the gamut of industries that people would disabilities can in fact support. Tony, what have you found that it feels like two people with disabilities and also their families and support systems to be given been a chance that enjoying the power of a paycheck and contributing to society the dignity of a paycheck is a is a powerful thing. It is establishes Selfworth, a sense of community and a true sense of purpose, and purpose is powerful. But it's not just the individual the disability, it's their family support system. A lot of cases if these individuals are not working, there at home and some cases their family members have to take care of them, so that is either a part time or a full time job of care. When you move them out into the working environment, that's not the case anymore. So it allows those family members to go out there and and do their own thing. It allows individual disabilities to earn a paycheck and perhaps move out on their own and have kind of an independent life. So it's not just the individual, it's not just the companies that they work at, but it's also their family structure. So yeah, it's a very powerful thing when an individual is placed and able to work and contribute to society. I imagine so. And on the flip side, what's it feel like to a manufacturing leader to know that they've helped change somebody's life? It's so I could speak personally to that. I can give an example where I've toured factories before, where an individual with disabilities working in a production line will come up and say, I'd like to share with you my first cell phone bill. This is the first one that I've been able to pay for for myself. There are other CEOS that I've seen that share similar stories. Where they've been able to go out there and purchase their very own first home. So those are the stories and highlights that you see. There's also been a huge benefits organizations by incorporating people with disabilities. The big focus around esg right, environmental social responsibility and governance. A lot of investors and really even consumers are are looking at companies that high have high esg ratings and by looking at this particular demographic incorporating them into their environment, they have higher ratings, higher profitabilities, lower overall absenteeism, greater profitability. So there's a financial benefit, but there's also that intrinsic, a heartfelt benefit of just knowing that you've got this population that are able to meet the needs of the company and the products and the consumers are selling too. It's a powerful thing. What would you say to a business owner that might be hesitant to hire people with disabilities right now? Yeah, I would. I would first start on that. That common about absenteeism. The individual disabilities. The on the average have much lower absenteeism rates than those that are non disabled. Also better retention rates as well, so there's definitely benefit. The longer learning curve is something that is easily overcome, but the sustainable output is something that I've not experienced before jumping into this particular market space. But both manufacturing and employ people with disabilities, and example of that is a company that we've partnered with before that was in the food manufacturing space. During their seasonality spikes they would bring on what most organizations do is the temp pole, right, the contracted temp agencies, bring them in, produce their products and ship them out. This organization also decided to hire people with disabilities. That longer learning curve was there, but over time they were... to produce, actually outproduce those those temps they get bored and burn out over time. The folks with disabilities wouldn't. They'd be sustainable at the particular requirement output level and the defect rate was significantly lower. So there's a huge benefit to consider this population and I think just more people need to be educated, need to know how to go about making those connections, and that's one thing I'd love to point out. Most states have departments of rehabilitation. There are a lot of organizations out there, nonprofit organizations with missions to create employment for people with disabilities. So there's a lot of resources out there. It's just taken the time and energy to make those connections right. So, Tony, pride industries is a really unique operation from everything I know. Can you tell us a little bit about pride and where the company fits into this conversation that we're having today? Yeah, absolutely so. Pride Industries is a social enterprise. What that means is we employ the same type of commercial strategies that our competition does. Just at the end of the day, we go back and reinvest in the organization and the mission, which is to create employment for people with disabilities. We do so by serving customers in the manufacturing and logistic service space as well as the facilities management space, both federal and commercial. The organization has been in business since the mid S. We started like most nonprofits do. Everything was kind of hand the mouth, but in the mid S we made the change to operate more like a for profit, and so what we look to is to deliver business excellence with a positive social impact. So we go out there, we recruit those subject matter experts and whatever discipline that we need, and then we sell and cater our services to those industries and then we just have this this great social mission that we can put on top of it. It's not our customers mission, but sometimes does become the differentiator. We've got great past performance in those industries that I made reference to. In the manufacturing space we have received global recognition both in supply chain management and manufacturing. We do for a large fortune one hundred company all of their logistics support in both north and South America. From a manufacturing perspective, we manufacture medical products that are sold and delivered across ninety different countries and again, we do so by incorporating about fifty percent of our population have some form of a disability. That's really great, Tony. Where would you point our guests if they're interested in learning more about hiring people with disabilities? I imagine pride is a great resource for that. And tell us where, where you'd go to thinking, Jeez, I need to learn more about this, I need to figure out if this could work for my business. Yeah, so pride industries is currently in the fifteen different states and DC. So I'd love to start with pride industriescom reaching out, taking a look at our website see if there's something that meets the needs. As I've indicated also in a previous response. There are a lot of different organizations out there in a multitude of states that you can reach out to, nonprofits and then the state level Department of Rehabilitation. They have a pool of individuals that are qualified work ready that might be able to provide some solutions as well. Beautiful. So check out pride industries and Tony Hob out. If our listeners would like to get in touch with you, what's the best way to be where's the best place to find you? Best Place to find me would be we my email address Tony Dot Lopez at pride industriescom. I'd certainly love to talk to any of your viewership that may want to learn a little bit more about the organization or may have a need to partner with pride. We can offer services both in the manufacturing space base as well as others. That's great, Tony. Really love this...

...topic. I believe in what you guys are doing and I'm glad we get to get this message out there. So thanks for doing this today. Oh, thank you. Thank you for allowing us to talk to you today and share our stories and talk about how industry is shaping with this this great population of people that have typically have not had an opportunity to compete. Thanks, Tony, and as for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. Before we go, I want to say a quick thank you to our sponsor, work stop. Worksteps software helps companies higher and retain their frontline workforce across the supply chain. Visit Workstepcom to learn more. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast. To ensure that you never missed an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically for bedb manufacturers at Gorilla Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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